Peter Pettigrew was horrified.

This had been, a part of his mind reflected, a normal state of affairs since... his seventh year of Hogwarts. It was then that he'd realized Sirius and Remus and James would not - could not - be his protective wall forever. It was then that he'd looked at himself in the mirror and seen what everyone probably saw.

He had not been - and still wasn't - fat. Peter had never been fat. But looking the mirror, the seventeen-year-old had seen how... soft he was. Not in a physical way, mind you, though there was some of that, too. He was soft in the way he couldn't look at himself steadily, in how even standing still he had to shift around in little ways. He was soft in the way he hunched his shoulders ever so slightly. He was soft in all the ways his three friends weren't.

The horror had started to creep in, then. James, Sirius,and Remus had had shielded him and supported him for seven years, and looming was the end of that.

Peter had started to panic. He hadn't let it show.

He'd still gone out, once a month, to accompany Remus for his excruciating transformation. Little rat paws clutching Sirius' fur or James' antlers, he'd watched the obvious brotherhood of Sirius and James, the caring for and from Remus, and the slightly condencending deference with which they treated him.

Peter had continued to panic. He still had kept it to himself.

Voldemort's ascension to power proceeded. Peter would listen to the anger and bravado and underlying fear of his friends, would listen to the barely-concealed triumph of the Slytherins and others, and he would think, "What hope it there in resistance?"

And then he would be disgusted at himself, and afraid, and he would wander off for a time. No one really noticed anything off about Peter - a fact he was rather proud of. Everyone was on edge, with Voldemort out in strength and the saftey of Hogwarts drawing to an end.

It only got worse after graduation.

It was a given that the Marauders would join the Order. For James, Sirius, and Remus it was the only choice, though James' vehemence on the suject might have been as much for Lily's benefit as for the need to do right. Peter, though... he had joined because there was no other way to maintain what was by now a facade.

Flinching, Peter moved his thoughts from his friends. His friends...

James had always said that friendship and loyalty were the most important things in life. But that had been James, proud stag, true friend. Sirius and Remus had never quite said as much, but the former's fierceness in staying by his mates and the latter's quiet love had said it clearly enough.

And here Peter stood, just having finished talking to someone who made the man want to scour himself clean.

Helplessly seating himself at the counter of the Leaky Cauldron, he shook his head. How could he have done differently? He was proctecting himself from death and pain, and he would have brought the three along if he'd thought they'd come.

Fiercely repeating this mantra to himself, Peter Pettigrew, the Marauder, the traitor, could almost forget his friends' trusting, happy faces.